And the biggest question that is on my heart is this: Does the way I live my life as a wife and mom make them eager for when they get to live out these roles in their own lives?
My older daughter is such a mirror to me. If there's one thing that motherhood has taught me, it's that you never know when you will again have a full night of sleep. (If ever.) If there's another thing that motherhood has taught me, it's that you will never be as humbled as you are in the moment when you're disciplining your child for an attitude that is an exact replica of your own. Over and over again, my daughter shows me the depth of my own weaknesses, my own struggles, my own flaws.
She becomes angry and mean when she has a simple decision in front of her, but she feels overwhelmed. As I walk her through these moments, all I can think of is how much these emotions are so familiar to me because I am the exact same way. If something breaks or our plans change or something disappoints her, she immediately goes to the negative and assumes the worst. As I comfort her and encourage her to stay positive and look for a solution, I feel ashamed that I still can't take my own advice at 32 years of age. When she can't master a new skill immediately, she gets so frustrated and angry with herself. I tell her to not give up and keep trying, yet I know I'm also prone to quitting anything I can't do perfectly right away.
The worst moments are when I see her talking to her dad in a way that is fairly dreadful, but I know exactly where she learned it. When she's upset, she mimics the way I speak to him when I'm upset. She'll also periodically make offhand remarks how hard it must be to be a mom because you have to do so much and take care of everyone and everything. She does often mention how glad she is to have a mom to take care of her, but the other comments make me feel like I'm probably too outspoken about how hard things are some days. She doesn't need to carry those burdens.
What am I doing in my day to day life that shows the good things? Do I intentionally make time to express the joy that comes from being a wife and mother? Am I so lost in the moments of frustration or exhaustion or perpetually-dirty-floors that I forget there are two little girls watching my every move?
When I think back to my own childhood, I remember my mom loving what she did. She was a mom. And a homemaker. But she never made us feel like that wasn't a high calling. She never made us feel like we were a burden, or keeping her from something more fulfilling, or that she was just trying to survive these years until we were older and she had more time to herself. It didn't matter that she'd get mad sometimes, or that things got messy or broken, or that all her time was dedicated to us girls and my dad and our home. There was still a contentment and sense of purpose that always shined through—even on the hard days. And I know that her example of motherhood is what made me put that ambition above anything else in life. I always wanted to be a wife and a mom because of her. Anything else I happened to accomplish was secondary. (And, no, I'm not ashamed to admit that—even in this day and age.)
Being a wife and a mom are what I'm most proud of in the entire world, but I'm so ridiculously far from perfect at either role.
Lately, I just feel like I'm a mess. I struggle with so many things, and even on the days I feel I'm ready to start fresh and have so many good intentions, I still fail. Over and over.
A few people have told me that they can't even imagine me getting mad or yelling at my kids, and I think it's such a testament to how you really never know what someone is struggling with based on how they look or act. I know we all tend to be harder on ourselves, but when I think about my overall attitude and reactions to situations big or small, I'm not always proud. I have days when I feel supernaturally patient, and other days when I'm on such a short fuse that every little thing feels like a trigger. There are too many days when I go to bed after an especially difficult day wondering if this will be what they remember of me. Frustrated, angry mom. Exhausted, tired-of-cleaning mom. Crabby, demanding mom.
I want to show my daughters that motherhood is truly a high calling, the same way my own mom did for me. It's hard, but it's good. I want them to want to be mothers someday. I want them to see motherhood as more than just an afterthought. I want them to know that children aren't a burden, keeping you from doing something greater. That they are my something greater. I want them to know that I tried hard every single day to love them well.
Twenty years from now, I hope their memories of the good things outweigh the memories of when I was a complete and utter mess…imperfect and insecure, with my heart tangled up in knots.
— Further reading: invisibility